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Living with Alzheimer's Disease

What to expect and how to manage your condition

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may have experienced problems with your memory, thinking, and concentration. Early on, the symptoms of these progressive brain disorders can be subtle, but as time passes, the changes typically become more noticeable and distressing. You might have trouble remembering how to do things that used to come easily, like balancing a checkbook or cooking a simple meal. You might struggle with intense indecisiveness or with expressing yourself effectively. Or you might become disoriented or feel angry, depressed, confused, or frustrated by your condition. Whatever the specific symptoms are, managing the disorder is essential to reducing the risk of complications, like depression, infection, falls, and other injuries.

Treatment

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or many other types of dementia, your primary care provider may be able to help you slow the condition’s pace and manage many of the accompanying issues with a detailed treatment plan. This plan may include:

  • Taking medications and/or supplements to slow the disorder’s progression and help ease behavior problems, agitation, and sleep problems
  • Finding ways to reduce or relieve stress (prolonged stress can worsen many symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia)
  • Consuming a healthy diet and exercising regularly to stay fit and healthy
  • Harnessing social and other forms of support to improve your ability to cope

Your primary care provider will outline a timetable for check-ups. You should also have your vision and hearing checked regularly since problems in these areas can make you feel even more disoriented.

Staying Well

To help you stay healthy, it’s wise to structure your time and make your home as safe as possible. Organizing your life so that it takes on a consistent rhythm—by setting regular times for meals, sleep, bathing, and the like—is important because familiarity can provide a sense of comfort. Also, try to schedule activities so that more difficult tasks are completed early in the day or at a time when you generally feel and function at your best. Make an effort to regularly engage in activities you enjoy, such as socializing, reading, doing puzzles, or playing a musical instrument or games, like chess or cards; a growing body of research suggests that stimulating the brain can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. It also helps to simplify your environment by organizing cupboards, closets, and drawers and attaching labels describing their contents so things are easy to find at home.

By improving your ability to carry out everyday activities and adhere to the treatment regimen recommended by your doctor, you can enhance your quality of life for as long as possible.

For more information, visit our Additional Alzheimer's Resources page.